Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Spotted on Facebook

I saw this photo on the book of face yesterday, and I don't think I've ever seen a better distillation of my thoughts on racial issues than this. According to the original posting on FB, this photo was credited to www.tonystiles.com. I didn't chase links to confirm that. So, take it for what that's worth.



Besides...everyone knows that the green M&Ms are the best.

Last Night in the Car

So, last night, The Queen, M&M and I were driving around town running errands and looking for food. M&M was sitting in her car seat in the back seat coughing because she suffers from a "chockit" allergy and has had way too much "chockit" the last several days because...bad parents. The Queen and I are in the front seat chatting away about something when we hear:

M&M: [cough, cough, cough...POOT!!!]

The Queen and I exchange a quizzical glance and look into the back seat where we find a smiling M&M looking back at us.

M&M: Did you smell it?

It's a good thing we were stopped at a light.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Not Fishy At All

So, the job search continues. I've been getting actual face time with real live human beings here lately, and I am hopeful that one of those opportunities will turn into a real live full time job offer. The wait continues though. In the meantime, I thought I would share the most interesting job search related item to turn up in my email inbox lately.
[some strange email address from a domain that does not look secure]
4:49 PM (15 hours ago)

to me

Hello Daddy Hawk!

I have read your resume and I would like to propose you a position with our company. It is an easy job with a permanent salary in the amount of $3 000 plus commission and social insurance. We are searching for candidates who are able to support business relationship between customers located in another country.

You don't need special skills, our manager will send you a detailed description and support you by phone. To get started you'll need to create an account with any local bank to process the transactions from our clients and sign a contract with the HR Department.

You will be able to get your first money in about 5 business days. If you're enthusiastic about please contact our company by email, we will support you.

Thanks

Seems legit. What do you think?

Given the interesting grasp of the English language sentence structure and syntax, I'm guessing money laundering for drug cartels or middle man for Nigerian scammers.

Either way...just not interested.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Stop Hitting Yourself

Dear Texas Republican Party Members (and you folks at the National Party HQ need to listen up too),

I'll make this simple: STOP HITTING YOURSELF! Seriously. Put down the shovel, go take a bottle of Tylenol and reread the Bible and the Constitution when you wake up.

Sincerely,

Daddy Hawk

I'll be the first to state that, as a conservative Christian, I believe the Bible is very clear on the subject of homosexuality. The Bible is also very clear about not judging others, accepting people as they are (while loving them and encouraging them to sin no more) and looking after your own problems before you try to solve everyone else's. I'll also be the first to admit that I do not understand the "cause" of homosexuality anymore than I do particle physics, and I'm pretty sure no one living has a decent grasp on that subject either. We can debate genetics and nature versus nurture until the end of time; but, if you listen closely, you can just make out the sound of God laughing at us for thinking we have a clue.

So, it strikes me that these well intentioned folks are suffering from a special form of stupid to think that 1)homosexuality can be "fixed" through therapy, 2) that it's any of the government's business in the first place, and 3) there ought to be a law to do something about it.

Do you want to take a stand on moral issues? Fine be me. Live your life according to those morals. Be the example you want others to follow. Talk to people about why you do what you do when offered the opportunity. Talk to them out of love and be respectful of that teachable moment.

Do you want to make a difference in state and national level politics? Fine by me. Stick to things that are defined by the Constitution as being the government's business. Let's talk fiscal policy. Let's talk foreign policy. Let's talk about securing the borders. Let's talk about taxes. Let's talk about how entitlements are bankrupting the county. Let's talk about the ideas you have to make Texas and America stronger (or strong again depending on your point of view).

Let's stay out of people's bedrooms. Let's stay out of people's minds. This isn't Orwell's 1984. There should be no political correctness. There should be no hate crimes or thought police. You don't fix racism by inciting riots and perpetuating the "us vs. them" mentality. You change people's hearts and minds by being the best example you can be.

[dropping mike and stepping off soap box]

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Advise For M&M: Special Edition

I was at lunch today reading The Book of Barley by L.B. Johnson and came across a quote I wanted to share and expound upon a little.

"In looking back, I realize that, for them, being a parent was something the learned by trial and error; that mistakes were made and forgiven, even as my own were. They were two imperfect and flawed human beings whose actions were recognition and protection of that brave bargain that is parenthood." - L.B. Johnson (if you don't already know who she is [and you really should], ask me via email)

Once upon a time, I heard it said that parenting is the only profession left up entirely to amateurs. There is no class that can adequately prepare you for parenthood. The reality of getting up at 2:00 AM to feed a baby or change the sheets that were just violated unspeakably has to be experienced. The responsibility to care for, protect, guide and educate an innocent, clean slate of a human being weighs heavily on the shoulders, but it is not a burden to suffered. Rather, it is a forge that strengthens you and tempers you and the results can be as rough or refined as the effort you put into it.

Children are a blessing. Treat them as such and cherish every moment with them.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Some Thoughts for M&M's Future Suitors

Though I am loathe to admit it, one day, in the not too distant future (the further the better), my little M&M will look upon a boy with a gleam in her eye and captivate the poor, unsuspecting youth thereby earning a level of scrutiny usually only reserved for sub atomic particles and IRS audits. Dear lad, here are some things for you to think about as you enjoy the relaxing sounds of latex gloves being pulled on and shotgun shells being chambered.

1) Don't run...you'll only die tired.

While this has been the motto of the United States Marine Corps Snipers, there is much truth here for you to consider. Note, the slowest bullet I shoot flys at a leisurely (and subsonic) 850ish feet per second.

You don't.

2) No smoking...unless you enjoy being on fire.

3) Old age and treachery trumps youth and ability.

I was your age once. I know what you're thinking. I know what you're going to do before you do it. You, however, lack the breadth of my experience. You have no idea what I am capable of. By the way...your shoe laces are untied.

4) Life isn't fair...neither am I.

You are assumed to be on notice of the rules and expectations. If you are unclear on what those rules or expectations are, you'd best ask questions ahead of time.

5) Freedom of choice exists...freedom from consequences does not.

Go ahead...try and violate the law of gravity. See how that works out for you. Same concept applies with me and my daughter.

Have a nice day.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

More Advice for M&M

1) "Never mistake activity for achievement." - John Wooden, former head coach of the UCLA basketball team.

One of these days, I need to get around to telling the story of Number 1 Follower and I getting his 4x4 Dodge Power Ram stuck in the mud...twice...in the same spot...on the same day. It was truly epic face palm material. The bottomline is that a lot of people spend a lot of their time doing busy work or spinning their wheels and getting exactly nothing done.

2) "If I were persecuted for my religion, I truly hope there would be enough evidence to convict me." - John Wooden

It's easy to say you are a believer in anything, but the reality of living by those beliefs is another matter entirely.

3) "If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don't ask which seat. You just get on." - Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google.

There will come a time when you are offered an opportunity so fantastic that you just need to say thank you, shut up, sit down and hang on for the ride no matter how long or short that ride is.

4) A college degree doesn't make you smart, and a lack of one doesn't make you uneducated. - Daddy Hawk

I've been around more than my fair share of supposedly educated people (with college degrees and advanced degrees in some cases) who exhibited a complete lack of intelligence such to cause one to wonder whether they, in fact, had black mail photos on someone in the registrar's office. By contrast, some of the smartest and most talented people I've ever known never finished grade school much less college.

5) "When everyone is super, then no one will be." - Syndrome - The Incredibles

I would much rather you try your hardest and come home with a third place trophy (or last place ribbon for that matter) than for you and everyone else to be told you are all winners and receive the same reward just for showing up.

Friday, December 5, 2014

That Went Well

I had my first ever on demand digital interview this morning. It was weird, but it went surprisingly smooth.

Basically, the concept is that a prospective employer wants to get you in front of a wider variety of people for consideration. So, they send you a link to a website where you can complete the interview at your convenience (6:00 AM in my case). They supply the questions,  and you get 30 seconds per question to prepare followed by 3 minutes per question to wax eloquent to your webcam.

They give you a practice question to warm up to which I thought I sounded like a bumbling moron which is being unfair to bumbling morons. They also give you helpful suggestions like dress professionally like you would for an in person interview,  look at the camera and not the screen, avoid filler words, etc.

It felt like I spent the entire time looking at the screen saying "uh, um, you know". A recruiter called me this afternoon with a follow up question and said I did really well. Her comment was that I sounded smooth as silk. I'll take that.

Next step is a phone interview with the hiring manager next week sometime which will make three interviews on the books for next week.

Wish me luck. Prayers and good vibes appreciated.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Let It Rain

After what seems an eternity of drought on the job search front, it seems that the heavens have opened up and the latter rains have arrived. So far, I've applied for over 60 positions since I was laid off in mid August. Most of those barely garnered a "thanks but no thanks" email. A precious few of those resulted in screening interviews, and one of those lead to an in person interview with a hiring manager which, unfortunately, didn't pan out because of salary range issues.

Thankfully, it appears that patience, diligence and persistence are paying off in the form of some real interviews in front of real live people as I had a second interview for one position and a first interview for another this week. I have two second interviews scheduled for next week. A connection I met in law school called me to see if I would be interested in a position, and he has forwarded my resume to the appropriate person from whom I am awaiting a call.

Then, today, I got the most interesting one yet. A request for a "digital interview". Apparently, I will log into a website, click a button and answer a standard set of questions via webcam.

That's a new twist.

Hopefully, one of these opportunities will turn into a job offer and not turn back into mice at midnight. One can hope.

I'll keep y'all updated as events warrant and time permits.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

DRT* - Texas Style

*DRT = Dead Right There

In the wake of the mess in Ferguson, it is refreshing to see a story of the police doing a thankless job that needs to be done...but doing it with style and humility to boot.

Case on point from Austin, TX: Here is an excerpt that gets at the heart of the issue (pun intended):

The incident that unfolded rapidly Friday morning was laid out minute-by-minute during a Monday briefing at Austin police headquarters. Acevedo said about 13 minutes passed from the first report of shots being fired at the Mexican Consulate to the moment McQuilliams fell to the ground from a single gunshot.

Mounted patrol officer Sgt. Adam Johnson fired the shot from 312 feet away using his service handgun, which he aimed with one hand while holding the reins of two horses in the other. It struck McQuilliams in the heart.

In contrast to at least 103 shots McQuilliams fired at Austin Police Department’s downtown headquarters, Johnson’s was the only bullet fired by Austin police during the incident, Acevedo said.

“We’re giving (Johnson) a lot of credit, but he feels very strongly there was some divine intervention and he wanted me to share that,” Acevedo said.

A quick Google search reveals that APD standardized to the Smith & Wesson M&P40 in 2010. I have a small bit of experience with that pistol, and I can honestly say I'm impressed with Sgt. Johnson's feat. Hitting a heart sized target at 25 yards with an M&P40 in one shot with both hands is by no means an easy shot.

He did it at 104 yards. One handed. While holding the reins of not one but two horses.

THEN, he says it was divine intervention. How cool is that? In the heart of the most liberal city in Texas, a police officer credits a higher power for an amazing feat of skill under pressure which undoutedly saved lives.

Well done, Sgt. Johnson. Well done.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Annoucement - New Blogger

Hear ye, hear ye...be it known by all present that My Sister...The Devil has bowed to the pressure from numerous sources, including her none to humble brother and now blog father (that'd be me), and started her own blog wherein she can wax poetic and/or vent her spleen as she sees fit. Her brain drippings can be located at Texas N Sanity. She has even posted content. Go forth. Read. Comment. Be kind and encouraging...or not...as you see fit.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Where Has Waldo Been?

As some of you may have gathered from the recent teaser pic, Daddy Hawk and family escaped the confines of our current living arrangements and hit the open road for adventure. Every year, our church keeps God's Holy Days as outlined in the Old Testament. The last of the fall Holy Day season is the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day (don't worry...I will not turn this into a preaching post) which is 8 days long (7 days for the FOT + 1 LGD). The church picks a place or two (or a dozen depending) where church members from around the country/world can gather together and celebrate the feast, worship together, fellowship, etc. This is a big reason why The Queen, who grew up in the church, knows people EVERYWHERE (I'm not kidding about that either).

Any explanation, this year, the choices were Oxnard, CA; Tulsa, OK and the middle of nowhere Kentucky. The Queen, being a California native, REALLY wanted to go there. Health (The Queen's) and circumstances (my employment status) threatened to derail our ability to go at all much less California. There was also the minor detail of how to get there.

You see, the Queen can not fly anymore. The last several attempts have literally been disasters. She puked in a Cessna that I had rented in straight and level flight on a calm day (guess who got to clean that mess up). She passed clean out on a Southwest Airlines flight and required smelling salts to be revived. The last time she set foot in an airplane was 2006 when we attempted to board a flight for Florida. I say attempted because that was near the beginning of the mystery illness. She started having difficulty breathing, and we had to get back off the plane and rush her to the hospital. Our luggage had a lovely trip to Florida.

Us, not so much.

So, driving was our only viable option.

I digress again. Our plan to travel this go round was further hampered by yours truly who fell Friday evening before our intended departure date. I was carrying M&M, and we were climbing up some rocks at the lake to get to a boardwalk when a rock shifted under my feet. It threw me off balance. The Queen was out of arms reach and unable to assist. I had a choice of falling over backwards and potentially cracking my skull open or worse or dropping both M&M and I straight down. I held M&M out at arms length in the hopes that I would not land on her and tried to fall gracefully. I don't have pictures of the damage. M&M was physically fine but lamented the loss of the gumball she had been licking in horrible wails of anguish. I lost some skin on my right foot in two places (dime size and quarter sized) and had a huge knot swell up in the meat of the arch of my right foot. Walking was painful to say the least (I thought I had broken something at first).

We went home and elevated and iced the foot. By Saturday, the swelling had gone down and I was able to walk with less pain. Regular shoes were right out because the larger patch of missing skin was right below my ankle and rubbed on everything. Fortunately, I have a pair of sandals that didn't interfere with the mess.

Sunday morning dawned, and The Queen gave a green light on her end. No one was clammering for my services for the near future. So, we loaded up a small Uhaul cargo trailer with our luggage (The Queen does not know the meaning of the phrase "pack light"), some camping equipment, a cooler full of food, and pointed the Navigator west.

First stop: Carlsbad, NM.

I should mention that we left the house with no (zip, zero, nada) accommodation reservations. Since we did not know whether we would be able to go until the last minute, making reservations seemed a bit presumptuous (not to mention potentially an expensive waste of money). So, we made the reservations (if any) as we went. Our first night was spent in the KOA campground outside of Carlsbad. It's actually a very nice place to stay if you ever find yourself in that neck of the woods with a yen for something other than a hotel. They even have small cabins for rent. We chose to pitch our tent for the night and had a restful, if chilly, night's sleep being serenaded by coyotes.

Day two started with breakfast at the Denny's in Carlsbad (truly, horrible service...worst restaurant service I've had in a long time) followed by a tour of Carlsbad Caverns.

Imagine pictures of a really big cave here...none of the ones I took were blog worthy. We did get a nice tourist to take a family shot for us...which you would see in this space if Google Drive were being cooperative right now which it isn't.

I gave up on Google Drive and went with the laptop hard drive
After that, we drove back into Texas, through El Paso, across the rest of New Mexico and stopped at the KOA in Benson, AZ just outside of Tucson. The Benson KOA is not as nice as the Carlsbad one, but it clean and quiet nonetheless.

M&M sacked out in a pile of comforters...for such a small girl, she can cover some real estate
Day three started at Gourmet Girls Gluten Free Bakery in Tucson, AZ. Really. Good. Gluten Free backed items. If you need or want that sort of thing. The GF Cinnamon Roll was more of a iced cup cake than roll, but it was still tasty. Other than that, well worth the stop. Discussion was had about making a stop between Tucson and Oxnard, and it was ultimately decided to press on and arrive ahead of schedule. We arrived at the Embassy Suites Mandalay Bay in Oxnard at around 1:00 AM with no reservation. They found us a room, and we passed out.

Day four dawned to a beautifully clear sunrise and no idea where we were going to stay for the next 8 days. An attempt was made to have breakfast. I say attempt because, apparently, someone was so anxious for me to get in touch with the rental property manager that I was not allowed to finish my omelette before being frog marched at knife point to my phone with strict instructions to make arrangements.

There were three properties we were interested in. Through careful process of elimination, it was determined that only one of the properties had any chance of working for us. Fortunately for us, the most likely candidate was the one we had been most interested in from the beginning. So, after a couple of calls, arrangements were made to see the property in person. It passed muster, and we went around the block to the property manager's office to sign papers and fork over money.

This was our prize and home for the next several days.


This picture does not do it justice. The main selling points were that it is right across the street from the beach and was the most unique place we had seen. It was originally built in the 1920s as a beach shack and had been added onto, remodeled and rebuilt over the years. According to a plaque on the curb, it was redesigned by a 14 year old with help from his dad.

You thought I was kidding
While we waited for the official check in time before unloading our stuff, we drove around Oxnard and actually found the house we had stayed in the last time we were in Oxnard 14 years ago. Not a bad trick considering we didn't remember the address and only had vague recollections as to the general vicinity.

Check in time rolled around at 3:00, and we were ready to be rid of the Uhaul trailer that had stalked us all the way from Texas. While I was unloading the trailer, I got a phone call from a major insurance carrier that had invited me to apply for a position. Lo and behold, they wanted to schedule an in person interview at their offices in the DFW area. I explained my present location and inquired as to when they would like my presence in theirs. They said "How does Friday, October 24 work for you?" I said, "Perfect."

I informed The Queen that I had something positive to look forward to when we got home from the trip and continued my efforts. The Queen was pleased.

But wait, the job hunt news gets better. Not only did I get the Ronco major carrier interview and turnip twaddler scheduled, but Day Five dawned to find an email in my inbox from a recruiter that said:

"I know this is wild, but [major third party administrator company] wants to extend you an offer based on your resume."

A phone call confirmed that they were offering a contract temp senior adjuster position handling commercial general liability claims at a "market rate" salary. The "market rate" was the hourly rate that I had asked for. So, I couldn't exactly complain even though it's 33% less than what I was making. Come to find out that the rate I asked for is at the high end and even above the high end of the current market rate for senior adjusters. We'll talk about that in a minute. The start date was negotiated to begin shortly after our return from California, paperwork was received and sent back and The Queen was pleased to know that there would be a job and a paycheck waiting for us when we got back. I was, frankly, relieved to know that someone wanted me even if it was for a step back in position and pay.


I was told, by the recruiter, that the position had the potential to go full time, and that the company would likely just convert the hourly rate over to salary and all would be well. If you've ever dealt with recruiters, the worst of them are rather distant acquaintances with the truth. This one might have met truth at a party once, but experience reveals that he hasn't trying calling the fake phone number she gave him. 


Oh, the company likes me alright, and they would like to keep me (after first telling me that they didn't hire temps). Unfortunately, the salary does not convert over, and their salary ranges are somewhat lower than "market rate". Which is a shame because the people are nice, and the work is not difficult. I just can't cut the budget any closer to the bone than I already have. 


There's more stuff in the works on the Jobba the Hunt front, but nothing is ripe yet. I've applied for 56 positions so far. I've had exactly one face to face interview (the aforementioned major carrier interview) which didn't pan out due to differences in salary expectations. There have been only a couple of other telephone screening interviews, but the vast majority of my application efforts has failed to yield anything more than a "thanks, but no thanks" email. 


It's enough to give a guy a complex. 


Anytrip, enough about my employment search. There's trip pictures to share.  


























The return trip home was nothing special. We had to cut it a day short because M&M started having allergy issues and was miserable. We made it home safely. It's hard to believe that was a month ago already. 


Much has transpired since last we spoke to borrow a phrase from the Denton PD "Dear Chief" letter. It's my bed time. Y'all write when you can. I'll do the same. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Please Enjoy The Hold Music of Your Choice

I've been working on a "Where's Waldo Been?" post in what little free time I've had lately. What do I mean by little free time? Well, for those of you who do not already know, I've officially moved from unemployed to temporarily underemployed which means getting up at obscenely early hours to commute 70+ miles one way into the heart of the DFW metroplex. It's a contract position with a possibility of going full time. If it does go full time, we're looking at a 33 to 40% pay cut not including bonuses and a couple of steps back in position.

But, it's a paycheck when I needed it most.

So, I'm putting everything I have into it so that I have a better shot of making the most of it. Some other things are in the works both short term and long term. If all goes according to plan, I should have a little more free time for writing and blogging by the end of the year.

Until then, I'll give you what I can when I can.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Silliness


A gift from number one follower and all around best bud. He knows me too well. I don't care if 9mm is cheaper than or just as effective as .45ACP. I like .45s because I like making bigger holes in things.


The Queen spotted this at the local Walmart the other day. Yes, it is exactly what it says it is. Yes, it's juvenile and immature. I must have it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Cuteness Overload

The job search is downright depressing (43 applications and not a single interview in front of a hiring manager). Would it kill HR people to actually answer their phones and respond to voicemails? So, instead of wallowing in self pity, I thought I would overwhelm everyone with recent pictures of The Cutest Little Girl in the World (TM).











She's a great little girl and a wonderful blessing.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Gun Blogger Family Loses a Child

Brigid at Home on the Range sent email yesterday asking to spread the word. Brigid's email is copied below:

"The loss was expected given the deformity found in vitro but they insisted on carrying to term to give her even a little love here on earth.

Peter Grant ways it better than I. His link (with links) is below. Spread the news if you can.


I have to give the family a lot of credit for having the courage to see the pregnancy through. That had to be a tough decision. One that I can't fathom. My thoughts and prayers are with them. Follow the links and do what you can even if it's just a moment of silence in remembrance. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tilting at Liberals 2: The Rebuttaling

Back in July, I posted about the exchange I had on Facebook with the liberal lamenting how minimum wage will not support a two bedroom apartment. There was more to the exchange. Unfortunately, I never got around to finishing posting the response to my response. So, now that I have all this glorious time on my hands, I figured it was time to get back into the swing of things and wrap up some loose ends.

First, her response:

I understand your point and agree with it as well, but I was thinking more about the people who DO have skills but are down on their luck and can't FIND work that suits their abilities. Yes, those jobs that pay minimum wage are GREAT for unskilled teens who don't need to necessarily support themselves and a family. There are a lot of elderly however who are barely existing because they can't make a decent wage, and they have no one to help them make ends meet. Even $10 an hour is hardly enough to live on and support a family with these days and there are PLENTY of jobs for SKILLED workers that only pay $9 or $10. I was referring to those companies that DON'T pay what a worker is worth, but the workers don't really have much of a choice but to work for a low wage OR starve, and many of them are barely eating as it is. I definitely didn't mean to offend you, or anyone else, [Daddy Hawk], with my post. ;)

I, myself, have skills, but am not able, at this point, with my health issues, to work enough hours to support myself. I'm hoping that the improvements I'm trying to make will allow me to begin to work soon. I'm working on a disability case until I can get my health back to that point, but I will NOT be able to exist on just disability, even.

My girls are sharing living expenses, and I hope that they do work hard to improve their skills and that they WON'T start families until they either themselves are able to support one, or until their future husbands are able to do so! Unfortunately, with my health the way it has been for so long, and with me being the ONLY parent around, and no one else really playing a role as mentor, they haven't seen the examples that many kids in the church have been exposed to, of hardworking parents with skills that help them make a good wage, usually of a Father who supports the family with HIS skills and a mother who is able to stay home and be there full time for the kids. We definitely haven't had the ideal life, but God has provided for us in spite of that. I pray He will help my girls to learn on their own what they need to know and that they will work hard and keep their health unlike myself. ;)

Now, I had originally intended to do a thorough fisking of her response. As I started drafting my response though, I discovered that there was a lot I wanted to say that didn’t fit well with a good old fashioned, beat down because her response didn’t contain enough to work with for a launching point. So, instead, I decided to just go with a detailed counter response and let fly.

[Facebook Liberal], first off, you have nothing to apologize for, and you did not offend me. I took issue with the political agenda behind the image you shared by a Washington DC based, liberal, lobbying group and expressed my opinion countering that agenda. The image is rhetoric, pure and simple, and misrepresents the issue to garner sympathy and support from people who have neither the time or interest to really understand the issue. Which is exactly how we wind up with social programs that cost more than the country can afford and don't work to boot.

Let's take a close look at the smoke and mirrors behind the image for a moment. As Mark Twain said, "There are lies, damned lies and statistics." The image says that nowhere in the US can you afford a 2 bedroom apartment working 40 hours a week earning minimum wage. 40 hours a week at $7.25 per hour for 52 weeks is $15,080 a year ($1256.66 per month). They expect you to assume that a person earning minimum wage will receive no other forms of assistance so that they have to rely solely on that meager (you know that's what they are thinking) amount of money.

No discussion of earnings would be complete without taking federal and state income tax withholding, social security or the now federally mandated health insurance requirement into account. Medicare and SSDI taxes hit your paycheck for 7.65% combined. Federal income tax withholding claiming 9 deductions is 8% according to my last paycheck. So, let’s call total withholding something between 15% and 20% for most people. One week of wages at $7.25 per hour is $290. Net take home without considering insurance is between $232.00 and $246.50. It's not a ton of money, but it will go farther than you think if you make wise choices. 

Insurance is expensive no matter how you slice it, and it has only gotten worse since Congress bent us all over a barrel with the “Affordable” Care Act. But, let’s consider reality for a moment. If you are between 16 and 25 (or 26…I forget the cut off) [which is also the demographic most likely to be earning minimum wage], you still qualify for mommy and daddy’s insurance plan. So, you reject the healthcare coverage offered by your employer (assuming you are lucky enough to have employer provided healthcare) and continue believing you are invincible because you are young and employed. The other end of the demographic scale that earns minimum wage is retirees (those 62 and older). They qualify for Medicare which is a whole other can of worms that I’m not well versed enough to open.

Next, they want you to assume that a 2 bedroom apartment is the bare minimum that someone needs to survive. Perhaps. Perhaps not. The unspoken assumption here is that they want you to visualize ONE person earning minimum wage HAS to afford a 2 bedroom apartment to house a family instead of just themselves. Otherwise, why mention a 2 bedroom at all? I think you and I can agree that a single person can get by just fine with an efficiency or even a small one bedroom apartment. That's cuts your rent needs by 30 to 50% easily. So, they obviously expect you to add kids to the mix so that you feel more sympathetic to the cause. How many? 1? 2? 10? I won't try to argue that parent(s) + 10 will fit in a one bedroom apartment, but I will say that you can make mom, dad and 2 or 3 work in a one bedroom.

Now, they expect you to believe that NOWHERE in the US can you find a 2 bedroom apartment within the budgetary means of one person earning minimum wage. How exhaustive has their study been? How many people are really affected by the problem to begin with? Many a young (or elderly) married couple quite happily share small apartments without fuss or bother. Before we sold Castle Erickson, there was a nice young couple (she was an artist and he was an engineering major) who rented a garage apartment from a neighbor for the low, low price of performing maintenance around the property as needed. I personally rented a two bedroom apartment for $425 a month that I shared with a friend. Granted that was 20 years ago, but that dump hasn't gone up that much in rent even ignoring Section 8 assistance. And that completely ignores the movement of people living in 100-200 square foot tiny houses partially or completely off the grid and mostly debt free (Google "Tiny House Movement" or Tiny Houses...fascinating concept).

Based on my own recent research, NICE 2 bedrooms are starting at about $900 a month (roughly $10,800 a year in rent) in the Collin County suburbs. No minimum wage earner in their right mind is going to rent a $900/month apartment in the 'burbs, but I bet they would rent a subsidized apartment for $500/month in the inner city where there is some public transportation.

To quote someone else smarter than me whose name I forget, "You can have your own opinions, but you cannot have you own facts". In my humble opinion, I think we can safely state that their argument is a factually unsupported opinion covered in bovine excrement.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I can go to town fisking the comments the liberal did make. Liberal in italics. Me in Bold.

I understand your point and agree with it as well,

No, not really. If you understood and agreed, I wouldn’t have to fisk the rest of your comments.

but I was thinking more about the people who DO have skills but are down on their luck

Luck has nothing to do with staying employed. Making wise choices and working hard are the keys to success. Getting a degree in medieval French poetry is not likely to lead to a successful, well paying career. Sitting on your ass checking Facebook every five minutes won’t do it for you either no matter how wisely you chose your career path. Being valuable to an employer by having education, skills and experience that benefit an employer’s bottom line will result in an employer looking for ways to keep you.

and can't FIND work that suits their abilities.

What exactly is this? The only job that matters to me is the one that earns a paycheck to put food on the table. If that means sweeping floors or designing airplanes, so be it. Refer back to making wise choices, if your abilities consist solely of medieval French poetry, it’s time to work on collecting some other abilities.

Yes, those jobs that pay minimum wage are GREAT for unskilled teens who don't need to necessarily support themselves and a family.

Minimum wage serves no other purpose than to be an arbitrary value for unskilled labor.

There are a lot of elderly however who are barely existing because they can't make a decent wage, and they have no one to help them make ends meet.

What choices did they make to put them in that position? I know people just like this; and, as harsh as it sounds, they did it to themselves. It is not my responsibility (unless they are family) to be the backstop for their poor retirement planning.

Even $10 an hour is hardly enough to live on and support a family with these days and there are PLENTY of jobs for SKILLED workers that only pay $9 or $10.

Choices, choices, choices. You are responsible for the choices you make. If you are making only $10 an hour, why are you starting a family? As for the jobs for skilled workers paying $9 or $10 an hour, you need to back that up with examples. I’ve been in the job market for a month now, and the only jobs I have seen earning $10 an hour or less are entry level and unskilled positions. Don’t like the pay, change industries. Entry level insurance claims adjusting positions pay significantly better than $10 an hour, and they will train you.

I was referring to those companies that DON'T pay what a worker is worth,

A worker’s worth is measured by the value he or she brings to the company. Having said that, every position in any company (from CEO down to the janitor) has an economic tipping point at which it is more cost effective to automate, outsource, downsize or otherwise replace an employee who no longer brings a positive value to the company. Fast food workers are in danger of pricing themselves out of a market right now. You can go into a fast food restaurant now, step up to a kiosk, select your own meal, and pay for your meal without interacting with a human until the food preparer hands it to you. I have experienced that myself at a couple of different chains so far, and more will follow suit. Food prep can be automated as well.

but the workers don't really have much of a choice but to work for a low wage OR starve, and many of them are barely eating as it is.

There’s that choices thing again. Everyone has a choice. The number of options you have to choose from depend entirely on your prior choices. Choose wisely.

I definitely didn't mean to offend you, or anyone else, [Daddy Hawk], with my post. ;)

Probably not…you just didn’t think before you blindly posted something ridiculous.

I, myself, have skills, but am not able, at this point, with my health issues, to work enough hours to support myself.

I understand having health issues after taking care of The Queen for the last 8 years or so. I also understand that health issues are often the result of poor choices. It’s not my place to judge your choices, but I can say it might be worthwhile to examine the choices that got you to this point.

I'm hoping that the improvements I'm trying to make will allow me to begin to work soon.

Improvement is good.

I'm working on a disability case until I can get my health back to that point, but I will NOT be able to exist on just disability, even.

It would seem you are existing just fine since you just got married.

My girls are sharing living expenses, and I hope that they do work hard to improve their skills and that they WON'T start families until they either themselves are able to support one, or until their future husbands are able to do so!

Hope doesn’t pay the bills. Teaching your kids the value of hard work and wise choices both through example and daily interaction will reinforce the values you want to instill better than anything else.

Unfortunately, with my health the way it has been for so long, and with me being the ONLY parent around, and no one else really playing a role as mentor, they haven't seen the examples that many kids in the church have been exposed to, of hardworking parents with skills that help them make a good wage, usually of a Father who supports the family with HIS skills and a mother who is able to stay home and be there full time for the kids.

This sounds like an excuse instead of taking responsibility for poor choices. So, where is their father? Whose choice was it to have kids with a deadbeat dad? You have mentors aplenty in the church to steer your kids towards if you will take the time to build those relationships.

We definitely haven't had the ideal life, but God has provided for us in spite of that.

God is merciful that way, but He also likes to see a little initiative and effort on our part.

I pray He will help my girls to learn on their own what they need to know and that they will work hard and keep their health unlike myself. ;)

For them to learn on their own???? Are you blind? How did that work out for you? God put YOU here to teach them and be their example not to let them learn everything the hard way.



Thursday, September 11, 2014

Happy Anniversary and Other Stuff

Greetings one and all. With all my free time, you'd think I would post more often. I guess you could say that I've been preoccupied. So preoccupied in fact, that I neglected to notice the five year anniversary of my own blog. Imagine that.

Yep, five years ago in August, I gave in to the hare brained temptation that writing my thoughts down in pixel form for the amusement of others was a good idea. Thank you all for your continued patronage. If nothing else, I hope I have at least served as an example of how not to run blog.

So, what has been occupying my time?

Well, there has been the whole felony theft mess. The detective assigned to the case by the Dallas Police Department was very nice and patient with us. We were a bit disappointed earlier this week when she called to advise us that the DA's office would not be taking the case and pursuing criminal charges. They considered it a civil matter in light of the fact that we voluntarily gave the property to the thief/con man.

That kicked over my hornet's nest, and I went into private investigator/squeaky wheel mode. I found some more information that we didn't have previously which basically confirmed that the dirt bag really can't tell the truth about anything. I presented that information along with a detailed explanation of how our case most certainly DOES meet the definitions of the Texas Penal Code theft statute, how voluntary surrender of property is not the issue and the intent of the person committing the crime IS, and how the other charges and convictions ARE evidence of his intent according to the statute. In addition to that, I posed several questions that the dirt bag SHOULD answer were he, in fact, a legitimate business man not intent on defrauding people out of their property.

Well, the detective called this morning to let us know that she spoke with another DA who has agreed to take the case. Hurray for the squeaky wheel!!! We'll see what happens next. Personally, I would love to be there when they cuff him and perp walk him out of his nice little neighborhood.

I would also like to find the BIGGEST guy in the Dallas County Jail and convince him to make the thief his girlfriend for the other things he has put The Queen through. That's not happening, but it makes for a comforting fantasy.

Enough about that for now. One of these days, I will post the entire story.

Job search continues. 29 applications. 16 rejections including the AVP position and the unspecified position via the business associate connection. I did have a very good discussion with a recruiter yesterday who gave me some very helpful and honest feedback about my resume. She has a position (one of the 13 remaining) she is working on in Dallas that may or may not be a good fit for me. She emailed the employer while she was on the phone with me and asked if they would be interested in talking with someone like me. The answer was yes. Full resume was to be sent late yesterday or this morning. I hope to hear back soon.

I'm a bit frustrated about the rejections. Of the 16, only 5 have been formal, "Thanks, but no thanks" communications. The rest have all been informal, "the job is no longer posted or checking online reveals that you are no longer under consideration" non-communications.

I'm also frustrated with the available job pool. There is a fair number of good positions available in places I WON'T live. Boston, New York, Chicago, New Jersey. You know...liberal, statist HELL. I compromised a little yesterday and put in for a position in Sacramento, CA only because the salary range was almost double what I was making before.

In other news, I've been assisting someone close to me with their novel writing efforts while starting work on my own. It doesn't help that the person I am assisting is writing trashy romance novel material. My novel has a prologue written and an outline that still needs fleshing out. It's basically a treasure hunt/adventure novel. If there is any interest, I may be persuaded into a sample chapter or sending drafts to beta readers. The Queen loved the prologue. So, at least one person likes the idea.

That's all for now. I have to get busy and find work.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Update

Not much to report on the job search front. At last count, I've put out 20 or 21 job applications and received 5 formal rejections. In addition, I am working with several recruiters and a couple of people in my extended business associate network. The brightest possibilities are a recruiter with an AVP position in Dallas and a business associate with a yet to be defined possibility in Fort Worth. The AVP position is with a company where I still know several people including one of the VPs. It's a good company, and I can see myself being happy in the role. I am reportedly one of three candidates currently under consideration, but it is a nationwide search and there is no indication of when they will be moving to interview stage.

The other deal, despite being somewhat nebulous and undefined at the moment, has some advantages as well. Hopefully, one or more dominoes will start falling soon.

In other news, The Queen and I were forced to file third degree felony theft charges against someone yesterday for the first time in our lives. I can't go into details yet, but the short of it is that we were the victims of a con artist. There are aspects of the situation that would make your blood boil were I to share. "Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord"....but, let's just say I'd be happy to arrange a meeting.

Lots of lessons learned and relearned out of this experience. In this digital age, the information is out there. You just have to know where to look, how to look and take the time to be thorough. Don't do business with anyone you haven't thoroughly vetted. Big deals (if you can't afford to lose, it's a big deal) should include a background check especially if things don't pass the smell test.

As I told The Queen last night, it's easy to spot evil when it's walking down the street shooting people left and right. It's real hard to spot it when it sits down, siddles up next to you and smiles.

Abraham Lincoln said it even better: "You can fool all of the people some of the time...." This was our time.

We are resigned to the fact that we will likely never see our property again or the money that was promised (if we do, that's a bonus). Our goal is to simply insure that the thief can't do this again to anyone else. There are two other felony theft cases pending against him which we really wish we had found before we entered into an agreement with him (we would have found it if we had searched for Stephen instead of Steve). He's currently under a deferred adjudication order in another county for theft charges there. He's also being sued in civil court by someone else for circumstances nearly identical to ours (I'm in contact with that attorney trying to convince them to file criminal charges as well).

If you are in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and want to know who to avoid, send me an email. I'll be happy to share the name, court case references, etc.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Activity Does Not Equal Achievement*

*John Wooden

So far, I've put in for 14 jobs that are within the ballpark of possibilities (and a couple that were stretches). I have my resume out to a couple of other folks in my network that have connections that might help. I've had two, unfruitful interviews and two rejection letters. There are two other jobs in the hopper that I need to apply for tonight.

I will say this though, I really appreciate companies that streamline the application process. Allowing a person to use their LinkedIn profile to apply makes life easier and quicker for everyone involved. Forcing someone at a senior level to fill out an employment application that contains the exact same information as your resume, however, is stupid.

If I could get away with it, I'd chuck it all and go be a gunsmith or welder.

Spent the day at the zoo with The Queen and M&M. Some thoughts:

The Queen is a genius for bringing gel cold packs that fit under my baseball cap and kept my head cool.

Fat women should not wear yoga pants. It's a crime against humanity.

M&M is a delight at the zoo. Standing at the zebra enclosure: "Why won't they come closer? I want to pet them." She wanted to get in the pens more than once. One of these days, there will be a news story of a cute little girl riding a zebra at the zoo. Just wait. It's coming.

If you have a brood of kids hanging off of you or in your arms, get off the stupid cell phone.




Sunday, August 17, 2014

Too Good Not To Share

M&M gave me the precious gift of a special memory yesterday. We were listening to a church service on the computer in the bedroom, and M&M was between The Queen and I. All of the sudden, M&M snuggled in close, laid her head on my chest and went down for a nap.



I had to stay still for the better part of an hour, but it was so worth it.

Diabolical

Over the years, I've done my fair share of pre-employment assessments. The one I did for my last job was the most in depth by far. During this evening's job search efforts, I came across one of the most diabolical. It starts off easy enough with the standard "which of the two following statements best describes you? A) I like to lay naked on a fire ant mound slathered in honey and confectioners sugar. or B) I live to cauterize my intestines with Thai ghost peppers with a hot cinnamon schnapps chaser." As you would expect, they ask you the same questions a couple of different ways to calibrate your responses.

Then, they turn the knob up to eleven.

Math and logic word problems...against the clock.

You have three minutes to read, analyze and calculate the correct answer, you can use scratch paper, a calculator, an abacus or a three year old. No cheating.

Most of them I did okay on. I think. The one that killed me went something like this (not exactly like this since I don't want to get in trouble with someone for sharing their intellectual property).

"Your company has 5 employees that buy widgets. Beavis buys 450 widgets at a $1 more than Cornholio pays. Butthead buys 650 widgets for $0.50 less than Cornholio pays but $0.75 more than Gribble pays. Gribble pays $1.00 more than Boomhauer does but buys 600 widgets. Cornholio buys 500 widgets and pays the princely sum of $5.25 per widget. Who spent the most money buying widgets?"

I locked up on that one scratching it out on paper. By the time I had it set up and was making headway, the clock was down to 7 seconds. Doh!!! Pick an answer and hope it's write. I checked myself later...nope...got it wrong. Just another minute, and I could have narrowed it down. But, they are timing this for a reason. How does this monkey perform under pressure and deadlines.

This monkey thinks this is a stupid shell game designed by MBAs who think solving math and logic problems against a clock is a useful metric.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Healing In Progress

As you might imagine, I had a less than restful night last night. I was emotionally and physically wiped out by the time things finally wound down here at around midnight. The poor Queen was in at least as sorry shape as I emotionally. The news hit her especially hard, and poor M&M was getting concerned too since there was a lot of heavy emotion floating around the cause of which she could not fathom. She and I wound up sacked out on a recliner together for mutual comfort until retiring to the bedroom to join The Queen in bed at some unknown hour. M&M was sound asleep when I got up, but she refused to let go. So, I simply took my little clingy monkey with me.

I woke up this morning at 7:30 AM whether I liked it or not (I didn't), and there was no going back to bed. Even if I could have gotten to back sleep, I had a headache and a powerful need to do SOMETHING. So, I fired up the computer and began by responding to some of the emails and Facebook messages that I received. I started updating my resume and got it circulated to several people for a variety of reasons (kymber, I look forward to your thoughts).

I thought I would take a moment to share some of my thoughts on the whole situation as well as some of the blessings I've been counting.

First, despite the passage of 24 hours+ since the axe fell, I still have no better insight into why this happened. I doubt I ever will. I'm still convinced that the reason I was given was not the "real" reason; but, since Texas is a right to work state, they don't have to give me a reason.  I have been in contact with some of my business associates that I've worked closely with over the last two and a half years. Universally, they were supportive and as shocked as I was. No one thus far has had a negative thing to say about my performance or skills which is a relief frankly. The Queen and I have our suspicions as to the reason why, but suspicions is all they are and will forever remain so. I have no interest in confirming those suspicions as it would serve no purpose beyond a small bit of closure. They have chosen to proceed without me, and I have to be content that they thought that was the best course of action for them.

I did get a little bit of appreciation from them today. I realized today that I had an Apple TV that had been bought by the company for use in presentations still in my possession at home. I emailed my former boss and the HR Director to ask them what they wanted me to do with. I was advised to keep it with a note of appreciation for my honesty. Every little bit helps I guess.

One very big blessing in all this is that we do not have a mortgage hanging over our heads like the sword of Damocles. The inlaws and my family have been very supportive. We have a roof over our heads as long as we need it. That is a relief beyond measure; and, I believe, a blessing from God that the house sold before this happened.

I kinda wish He had told me to wait on buying the new car though.

I have been blessed to receive offers of help from many of you as well as others. It's very reassuring to have people willing to go to bat for you when you've been kicked this hard. Having a professional contact you respect tell you that you're well liked and know what you're doing is very comforting when you've been cast aside.

I no longer feel the need to puke, and I haven't cried since this morning. So, that's progress.

The Queen, M&M and I spent some time this afternoon at the lake enjoying the water and sun together. That was very nice. I was even able to forget my situation for a short time. M&M and I had great fun splashing in the water. She can't swim yet, but she loves to be in the water and getting confident in allowing her head to go underwater.

I've been searching through job postings, and I've seen some that interest me and a couple that look like they were written for me. I will be applying for them over the next several days. Hopefully, something will come of that. In the meantime, I'm working my contacts and networking as much as I can.

Yesterday hurt pretty bad.  Before I gave up the company phone, I sent The Queen a text to let her know what was going on as we were supposed to meet for dinner near the airport for a quick meal before I had to fly out on business. As I was cleaning out my desk under the watchful eye of the HR director, she kept calling me on my office phone trying to get a hold of me. I told HR that I was answering a call from my wife and had to tell The Queen a couple of times that I couldn't talk before finally having to hang up. It was all I could do to keep from completely falling apart on the phone, as I boxed up my accumulated stuff and on my way out the door. Even at that, I know I left several items behind for them to ship to me. It was a long two hour drive home. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done to pull into the driveway and face my wife who loves me and relies on me to provide for her and our daughter. I wanted to be anywhere else. Seeing the heartbreak on her face when I finally made it home, not directed at me but at the situation, and hearing the pain in her voice cut deep. I will be forever grateful to her for the love and support she gave me through her own hurt.

I wish I could report that I'm over it, that I'm all smiles and laughter. That would be complete and utter fertilizer. The healing has begun, but it is far from over.

Thanks again to all of you who read here and especially those who took the time to comment or email. Your friendship is very much appreciated.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Laid Off

Friends, it is an unhappy day for Daddy Hawk.

I received a call from my boss at 3:00 PM today to join him in the HR director's office. I was gently but bluntly informed that I was being laid off due to my position being eliminated. I have never been so shocked in my entire life by anything. Bar none. Other words were said, but they made no sense to me at the time or in hindsight. This truly came out of left field. I could go through my hindsight analysis of the situation, but the end result is that the stated reason for the layoff still makes no sense.

A lot of what transpired between then and when I arrived home is a blur, and I have no doubt I would not give an accurate account if pressed under oath. Frankly, I'm surprised I made it home without getting lost or into an accident.

I have no idea why this happened, but I do know that things will work out for the best. I'm not posting this looking for sympathy, but I would be grateful for any prayers, warm fuzzy feelings and good vibes you're willing to spare.

Erratic posting and irregularly scheduled programming will continue as normal.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Seen At Lunch...SHINY

Factory Five Shelby Cobra replica
Slobber....drool....I'll be in my bunk.

Insider's Guide for Outsiders: Evil Insurance Companies

A co-worker forwarded the link to this news article. For those who can't be bothered to click a link, here's the short version:

76 year old man gets into an argument with his insurance agent over why his auto insurance was canceled. Man gets physically thrown out of agent's office. Man sues agent. Man wins judgment. Agent's representatives attempt to partially satisfy the judgment with 17 buckets of loose coins.

As my current boss commented, there's got to be more to this story.

Now, I will admit that I have been sorely tempted to do something like this more than once in my insurance career. The one thing stopping me has been that the hassle of getting that much coinage together and delivering same far outweighed any pleasure I might have received at making a difficult attorney's life more difficult. I'm sure others in my profession will agree.

I bring this up because of a (probable spam) comment I received on my relatively recent post on litigation. The commenter stated: "Great information! Insurance companies don't like to pay claims and some inspectors or adjusters are invented to deny claims. With this said, if you have a legitimate claim, you should expect to be treated fairly and expect the insurance company to honor the claim."

My response to the commenter was: "I'm not sure what you mean by "some inspectors or adjusters are invented to deny claims", but I will say that claims people tend to be a jaded and suspicious lot by nature (it comes from too many dealings with sleazy lawyers and angry claimants). Insurance companies are in business to make money like every other business. As such, saying they don't like to pay claims is almost akin to saying the Pope is Catholic. Having said that, some companies have a well deserved reputation for being difficult and reluctant to pay claims while others are less difficult. Perhaps my next articles in the series will be on insurance companies and adjusters."

I thought I would take a moment and give a brief overview of the insurance business from the company perspective. 

First, let's get one thing perfectly clear from the start: with very few exceptions, insurance companies are in business to make money. Any insurance company failing to make money for very long does not tend to stay in business for very long. 

The primary vehicle for measuring the profitability of an insurance company is the loss ratio. In its purest form, the loss ratio is the total of all written premium collected divided by claims paid including expenses. There are two types of expenses: allocated loss adjustment expenses (A.L.A.E. for short though I've heard some people pronounce it as a word: "A-lay") and unallocated loss adjustment expenses (ULAE). ALAE is any expense that can be allocated to a specific claim file. The legal bill that pays for the attorney defending a specific lawsuit is ALAE as is private investigator, inspector, expert witness and other expenses when they arise out of a specific claim investigation. Adjuster salaries, office rent, electricity, phones, etc. are ULAE. 

A loss ratio of 1.0 is break even. Loss ratios of greater than 1.0 mean a company is hemmorrhaging money, and loss ratios of less than 1.0 mean that the company should be profitable. It is theoretically possible for a company to have a 1.1 loss ratio and still turn a profit, but that feat requires successful return on investment of premium dollars which I may or may not discuss further. In my experience, it is rare to see a reported loss ratio below 0.50. The most profitable companies typically run a loss ratio in the .55 to .75 range. The majority of okay but financially profitable companies run ratios between .75 and .95. Companies having issues typically run loss ratios very close to or above 1.0. A recent example would be Fireman's Fund's dismal performance the last two years running with combined ratios (a combined ratio is the pure loss ratio including investment performance) of 1.294 (2012) and 1.036 (2013).  

That's all so very nice and esoteric, but what does it mean? 

To be honest, lots of things and nothing at all. 

Underwriter and actuaries control one half of the equation (written premium) while the claims department controls most of the other half (losses paid and ALAE). Premium rates are set based on a variety of factors that are well beyond my limited math education and experience. Actuaries perform all sorts of calculations and review statistics (and goat entrails I'm sure) and analyze navels until they come up with a set of rates they think represents the rates that a given category of risk should pay. That's why teenage boys pay the highest rates for car insurance. Underwriters then stick their thumb in that pie and develop a set of underwriting guidelines that define the "appetite" for risk that the company wants to pursue. For instance, the last company I worked for prior to the one I am with now had a solid personal lines (auto and homeowner's insurance) and "middle market" appetite. They were content to pursue small to medium sized companies in a variety of industries, but they would steer away from anything too big or unique. Unique in the underwriting world = risky and hard to price. 

Another driver of insurance premium rates is policyholder retention (or whatever the term de jour is). Basically, there is a finite number of people and/or companies out there. Most of them already have policies which forces the insurance industry to compete on price and service. Service is almost exclusively (but not completely) owned by the claims department. Underwriting sells a promise. Claims delivers on the promise. That leaves price. A company losing market share might choose to lower rates or increase its underwriting appetite or both in order to bring in more premium dollars, at the risk of increasing the loss ratio. A company seeing its loss ratio rise might choose to do the opposite, at the risk of losing market share.  It's a very delicate balancing act. 

That brings us to the loss/claims side of the equation. As mentioned a moment ago, service belongs to claims. There is a distinction here that needs to be mentioned (one I've mentioned before). When you see an ad for an insurance company on TV talking about fast claims service, they are talking about first party claims. A first party claim is one in which you the policyholder are making a claim for benefits to be paid to you under your policy. An example would be making a comprehensive or collision claim on your auto policy. A liability claim where someone else makes a claim on your policy for benefits to be paid to them arising from an accident caused by your negligence is a third party claim. 

What difference does it make? Most states, if not all states, have some form of statutory or regulatory guidelines for how first party claims can/should be handled under pain of fine or penalty for failure to comply. As a result, the claims process for first party claims is pretty streamlined and efficient. Some companies still have field adjusters who will come to you; and, in some cases, they will even cut a check for the damages on the spot. Additionally, there is usually no requirement on a first party claim to prove legal liability as is required by the insuring agreement on a liability policy since a first party claim arises from contractual language as opposed to tort negligence theory. Prove that the contract was in effect and that the damages incurred are covered by said contract (which is usually self evident), and the check is in the mail. 

Most of the time, when someone is griping about an insurance company, they are griping about the handling of a third party claim. As mentioned in a prior post, the time frames on a third party liability claim can go on for years. Most people anymore lose their patience and tempers after a few seconds. So, you can imagine how much fun third party claimants are to deal with when you deny their claims. 

Now, as for the prevailing thought that adjusters look for reasons to deny a claim or that insurance companies don't like to pay claims, the short answer is that it depends. 

Most individual insurance adjusters are hard working people trying to earn a living and do a good job. They have neither the authority nor do they receive the level of reward necessary to incentivise denying valid claims for no reason. The average adjuster, in my experience, is handling between 75 and 175 claims at any given time depending on the complexity of the mix. Most adjusters have very limited personal authority requiring management approval for settlements/reserves above certain amounts, coverage issues, etc. Most adjusters also know that denying a claim does not mean it goes away. In this litigious society, they know that it just means a lawsuit will be coming in soon and that file will be around a lot longer. If anything, there is a human nature tendency to find ways to PAY claims because settled files very rarely reopen, and adjusters have better things to do with their time than reopen files. As such, a permanently closed file is a happy file. Yes, there are individual adjusters that are jerks who are difficult to deal with. Pick any industry...you will find your share of jerks there too. The bottom line is that adjusters are people too subject to the same pressures and feelings as anyone else.

At the company level, there is not an insurance company in business today that has an official "smoking gun" document from senior management that says "look for ways to deny claims" or something to that effect. No one I am aware of is that stupid given the lengths to which bad faith lawyers will go to find such information. Now, will middle management do or say something stupid like that? Yes. I had an assistant VP of claims at a large, international insurance company tell me personally "I don't care if it's right. I just want it done." I explained to him that I had no intention of doing what he told me as I had no intention of explaining why such an unethical thing was done when my deposition would be taken in the inevitable bad faith lawsuit. His boss agreed with me after the fact. I still left that company pretty quickly thereafter though. 

Will a company institute policies or procedures that make the claims process more difficult for everyone involved (adjuster and claimant alike)? Yep. Been there. Done that. Google "allstate colossus" for one such example. I've never worked for Allstate, but I did work for one company that also used Colossus for certain types of claims. I can attest that it is just like every other computer program in existence: garbage in, garbage out. 

One consequence of the whole loss ratio analysis discussed above is the cyclical nature of claims settlements. When the loss ratio is high, the claims department gets pressure to "lower the loss ratio" or "reduce expenses". This can take the form of taking more cases in litigation to trial (which is counter intuitive since it involves incurring more expense) or settling more cases (which is also counter intuitive for obvious reasons). Taking more cases to trial is problematic for a variety of reasons not the least of which is the almost Byzantine nature of our legal process. Most adjusters hate to lose cases at trial. As such, they tend to recommend very few cases for trial and then only those that have legitimate, unresolvable disputes or those that they believe are "slam dunk" cases. I have sat in more than a few roundtables where I've told upper management in no uncertain terms that trying a particular case would be an epic mistake. Usually, they are smart enough to listen and the case eventually settles. 

It should be noted that insurance companies don't just take premium dollars and dump them in an interest bearing checking account hoping everything balances at the end of the month. There is a whole side of the business controlled by accounting and the CFO that takes the money, invests it and hopefully scores a boatload of return on investment earnings in the process. Sometimes, that can blow up in their faces. AIG most notably went to the brink of oblivion just after the housing bubble burst in 2008 through over reliance on mortgage backed derivative investments. Hartford got splashed by that same bubble bursting for the same reasons but fared much better through a more diverse investment portfolio.

This is a pretty big topic that I am only scratching the surface of here, but I need to get back to work. If you are really that interested, you can dig into the mechanics of reserving and prior year development charges to present earnings, etc. That's homework for you CPA types. 

In closing, your attorney is no better or worse a person than the adjuster for the insurance company. Treat them with the Golden Rule, and things will usually work out the way they are supposed to.